Saturday, July 3, 2010

Blogger's Cafe In My Classroom?

This is my school. It's 80 years old and beautiful. I'm changing rooms this year and I'm finally moving into the room of my dreams. I have wanted this room since I started at Grosse Pointe South High School 8 years ago.  Here are a couple of shots of the room I took with my phone.

This is taken from the stage toward the front of my room.

This is the stage taken from the front of the room.

When I first saw the room, I was filled with all of the crazy things I would do with a stage in my room. The teacher who had the room decided to use the area for storage and filling cabinets. That's not how I would have used it, but it worked for that teacher. I have some other plans for the stage though.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted The Nerdy Teacher's Epic Romeo and Juliet Lesson Idea. The lesson results in three separate sections of Freshmen English classes putting on full production of Romeo and Juliet. The stage would be a great place for students to rehearse and work on blocking and things. It will be an epic endeavor, but something I think I can pull off with the support of my wonderful Department. Using a stage for a theatrical production is not an innovative idea, but there has to be other ways to use this space a daily basis that would helpful to all students.

One of my favorite parts of ISTE, besides the awesome people (You know who you are), is the Blogger's Cafe. It was such a great meeting place for everyone getting together to chat and charge their respective electronics. After I got back from ISTE, I took a look at the room empty for the first time. It seemed much larger than I had realized upon first inspection. I looked at the stage with new eyes after ISTE and realized the full potential of the space.

A well placed set of cushy chairs or a couch would be a comfortable place for a few students, no more than 3, to sit and blog/tweet the discussions happening in class. I want to create a Blogger's Cafe on the stage. What better way to have students engaged in the content in class. Here are some of the ideas being tossed around in my head.

  • Each student would be designated as a class blogger on specific days and would take notes on what we covered in class. 
  • At the end of the class, the students would post their work for other students and parents to see later. 
  • Non-blogging students can then go back and add any information that was left out or comment on the overall class. 
  • Points would be awarded for completing the blog post. 
  • Students that add information or comment on the post will be entered in a drawing to earn extra credit for the current marking period.
  • I like the idea of having 2-3 Bloggers at a time to allow for varied views of the class discussion. 
  • Students will be given a template of what a post should look like. 
  • I like the idea of offering students the chance to Vlog if they want. I won an awesome Flip Cam from @SimpleK12 at ISTE and this would be a great way to use this wonderful tool. 
  • Students that want to film their post can check out the camera or film it after school. 
  • I could get some Green Screen that students could film in front of so they could have some fun with the video at home. 
Those are just some of the ideas in my head at the moment. I like the idea of a Blogger's Cafe on the Stage because it will get students thinking about the content in the class. They will need to decide what is important and worth posting and what can be left out. They will have to focus their listening skills as they search for key words and phrases to post. There will be a real sense of ownership of the work when it gets posted. Also, students will want to check the post to see if there is anything left out to see if they can get  a shot at the extra credit. Parents will get a daily play by play of what is happened in class that day.

We do not have open WiFi in the building, so I cannot have students just bring in their own laptops to access the network. That would be awesome so they could save things on their own computer and mess with it at home. That is a project I will be tackling at another time. The Blogger's Cafe on the Stage is a chance to start to create a tech friendly environment in a classroom for other teachers and administrators to see. If I can show the success of the Blogger's Stage (Just decided on the new name), maybe  I can persuade other teachers to start blogging in the classroom.

I will keep you posted as things progress with the Blogger's Stage. I need to think of some decorating ideas for the stage. We have a group of Mothers dedicated to restoring parts of the school and I might ask them to take a look at the stage. In the picture, you can see that the frame of the stage goes up in the shape of an arch but is covered by the lowered ceiling. I'm pretty sure the new ceiling covers up the upper stage lighting. I have about 4 extra light switches that work turn something on and off. It would be great if the entire stage could be refurbished to it's original form. Wishful thinking I guess.

If you have any ideas about how to use this space, a better name for the space or  how you would run a similar idea in your class, please leave me a comment. I'm creating on the fly and I would love to share ideas with others. Drop me a comment. Thanks!

- @TheNerdyTeacher


I want to thank everyone that has commented on this post. This is my most commented on post and it was just a random idea in my head. I guess it shows that you never know what is going to excite people when you write. Your ideas have inspired me to continue to evaluate the concept of a Blogger's Cafe in class. I'm leaning more towards making it a class expectation instead of a point based system, but still haven't decided.

I have a Math teacher and possibly a Science Teacher on board with having their students blog in their class. I couldn't be more thrilled. It's only been a week since ISTE and I have already made some minor steps in the right direction. Please keep up the comments and the support. I can't wait to hear from more of you as I continue to update this project.

Take care to all of you and I hope you are enjoying the summer.


  1. Nick.

    Your thoughts are very reminiscent of stuff I've seen David Jakes talk about and learning spaces. That, coupled with an article I read earlier today saying our HS students are bored, usually on a daily basis, will keep your students engaged. Such a great idea. Good luck as you move forward in your learning over the next year.

  2. Ann
    That stage screams open-mic to me :)

  3. Nick;

    First off what a wonderful classroom! The school is very nice as well.

    Just don't let them Twitter during class with a hashtag. Remember all of the Tweets during the opening keynote on Sunday?

    I think that with the space that you have you can do some truly wonderful things. I really like your ideas about them blogging during the class and them making follow up posts later.

    I will look forward to how it goes during the school year.

  4. Nick,
    This sounds awesome!

    I actually like the Blogger Cafe name only because it maintains the cozy feel that should be had in a classroom. Some 4th grade students were recently asked what they would change if they could in their classroom and comfort was high on their list. If you want students to think about taking reading skills outside of the classroom and applying them in other forms, that's the first thing you'll notice that is different. People don't purposely go sit in the hard wooden chairs at Barnes & Noble or Borders to read. They actually went for the comfy couches, but they were already taken and had to deal with leftovers.

    This idea is actually what Alan November talked about in his Digital Farms session. He discussed 4 jobs and one was the Scribe Team. Here are my notes on this job because I LOVED the idea so much!!

    - Have 1 student in charge of taking notes (scribe) about certain subject/given day
    - Notes are written by student, posted before bell rings, reviewed whole-group, check for learning AND reflect on teaching (did you teach so they got it??)
    - Changes social aspect of learning
    - Kids write textbook throughout year instead of relying on actual textbook to teach them
    - Allow students to put their own notes in b/c teacher knowledge is limited and kids often
    know more, so let’s include that

    Do you have an IKEA nearby? I furnish my room with things from there, or even a futon to get it a little comfier. Great idea! Now, run with it!! I could provide you with some art if needed...

  5. I think having an area devoted to blogging is a wonderful idea. I have been pondering having students blog on my classroom blog each day and possibly have a photo of the day.

    If you don't mind, I'd like to push back a little. Does it need to be a graded activity? Do you think students won't do it if it doesn't "help" their grade? Could you try just having volunteers post with the best thing from class that day and see how it goes? Might students post in a different manner if they know it is for a grade vs if it is their choice?

  6. Becky,

    I like being pushed. I would like to have it as a part of my class as an expectation. Students will do it because they are told. Sadly, our district is very grade driven and it's next to impossible to get students, and their parents, to take anything seriously unless grades are connected.

    As a pilot, I want to see how viable the set up will be over the course of the school year. If it works smoothly, I can move more away from grades and just make it a part of the class. I want it to become a normal part of class like taking notes would be.

    In the grand scheme of things, I would love it if all students posted their notes at the end of the class if I could get a 1:1 situation in my class. My school is just not as cool as some others I know. :-)

    Thanks for commenting, I love the dialogue.

  7. This year was my first ISTE conference and my first EduBloggerCon. My favorite part was the Web 2.0 Smackdown. Could your stage be somehow used for a smackdown kind of event? This could be a student thing or even invite fellow teachers in for a smackdown PD.
    Just an idea.

  8. Wow, what a great classroom space! I think the blogger's cafe is also a wonderful idea. Getting students to reflect on their learning while they part of the lesson and afterwards is so important.

  9. I understand the school atmosphere as to how important grades are. But, Mr. Nerdy Teacher, YOU are the one that can change that! Small steps! I like your idea of inching away from grades. Maybe do it for grades 1st Q and showcase creative ones. Then, poll the students and see who would do it if it wasn't graded. I know my brother, @mctownsley, went almost totally away from grading homework last year and the students still did it for the most part. Give it a shot! You never know!

  10. Wow - what a fantastic idea - one I'd like to pinch if I may. I'm teaching Year 5 students (9 year olds so that's Grade 4 I think) and while they blog and do cloud computing stuff this would be a step up for them.

  11. Like Mrs. G, the one thing that really stood out in my mind from this post was the grading deal. Could you establish a "posting rubric" (ugh...) and have "grading" as a student job? You have 3 bloggers everyday and then randomly choose 3 graders at the end of the hour?

    Your classroom looks awesome! I say pull down the ceiling and use the lights. Kidding. I really the like the PD idea mentioned earlier. Great setting for that.

    I'm moving my class into a science room with a huge lab space in the back. I'm trying to find a bunch of bar stools and lamps to create a Blogger's Lounge type area in the back. But this post has inspired me to think about the front half of my room. How can I make it more like the comfy chairs at B & N? That's the feel I want.

  12. What a wonderful space! I'd like to push back a bit on your thought about giving the kids a template for the blog posts. Why? Wouldn't the students feel a bit more ownership of their posts without a template from their teacher? I'm not even sure you need to set minimum requirements. Sometimes kids just won't have much to might also be a good gauge on their excitement level in your class. If the kids are writing a lot, it could mean they are really engaged. If they're not writing much...well...maybe you'd need to look at how you're doing things. I LOVE the idea of a blogger's cafe in the classroom though. Keep us updated on what you decide to do...

  13. What an awesome learning space - I can see why you've always wanted it. Now you have to make sure you keep it! I love the idea of a blogging space. I'm looking forward to reading how it all pans out.

  14. Get a can of IdeaPaint ( and paint the inside wall of that stage so kids can write their ideas all over the wall...

  15. jerthebear,

    The template I had in mind would be very rough. I envision three parts to a student post.

    Part 1: The Word of the Day
    I give a Word of the Day every day and it is the students responsibility to find the definition. After 20-25 words, there is an assessment of some sort. Now, I could have each student define the word in class and possibly add a picture or something.

    Part 2: Class Content
    This is where the kids would write down what is going on in class. Information, handouts, etc.

    Part 3: Homework
    This is where the students will write down the homework for the next day and reminders for any projects or long term assignments.

    I want to leave it as open as possible, but there are just some things that I want to see in each post so I can keep them focused.

    Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate them and it challenges me to think a bit more about my idea. :-)

  16. I LOVE this idea and what a perfect classroom. I teach freshmen at the University of Central MO. They work in groups on semester-long research projects. Your post made me realize how I could do this in my room. We use Blackboard (which will have blog capabilities this fall) and students can take turns blogging their progress during class and hopefully have them reflect and revise as they go. Thanks for kick-starting my brain this morning. I am looking forward to hearing how your project goes this coming school year. Sandy

  17. Your post just connected the dots for me on how to transform my high school juniors who "live" online from a distraction to a valuable asset during class. When students have an independent learning surge that interrupts the flow of the larger discussion or activity, that surge should be incorporated into a written and posted part of the class period.

    Students who have these surges of independent learning need to know in a deliberate and purposeful way that their thinking is valuable.

    I imagine that when other students see that independent learning surge behavior gets positive reinforcement from a larger audience, lots of other students would take more risks to explore and create their own meaning.

    What a great post. Thanks!

  18. Nick,

    This is an excellent idea! What a great use of this space - and what a great idea to encourage rich extended discussion of your class concepts. I see that a few people have commented on the "grade" part of your bloggers cafe. I think that you should try it both ways - maybe students can eventually create a "portfolio" of their blog posts - evidence of reflection of their learning. Some of the blogs can be "formative" in nature while others - towards the end of units perhaps - could be "summative". Just some thoughts - again, you have a great idea - what a fabulous example of taking learning from a conference an applying it to the real classroom!

  19. What a cool classroom! I am so jealous. I have always wanted to put a raised platform (stage) in the corner of my room.
    I think your ideas are great. You gave me a couple that I think I can use with my 3rd graders when we blog.

  20. You are very lucky to have received this space, but I'm sure you were definitely kept in mind as it came available.

    I heard you say that you are concerned about the students bringing in their own laptops because of a lack of wi-fi. I, too have a similar stumbling block as I redesign my 3rd grade classroom for a more 1:1 atmosphere. Here are a few solutions I've come across that may help you out:
    * download pdanet on computer & smart phone (for free) to use your cell as a modem
    * purchase wi-fi drives & pay for service (fee associated)
    * purchase a mi-fi device which will create your own wi-fi & allows 5 devices to work off of it (fee associated)

    I look forward to seeing what it looks like once you've set it up & hearing about the learning you & your students embark upon this year!

  21. Nick, I love, love, love, your idea and the suggestions others have made here. I would love even more to come visit when it's up & running.

  22. Ummm... hello?? Dance-off area!

    I actually think you could use that area for a number of purposes. In addition to a cafe area for blogging, backchanneling, or whatever you decide to do, I really like the idea of keeping it available for performance or other creative options. I would love to have a room like that!

    Also agree with Becky- I think if you start off grading what they do in blogging, that will always be the expectation. My students are much younger (K-5), and they constantly ask "Is this graded?" I like to promote as much as I can those activities that are about the process of learning. Set the precedent early. I think you'll be surprised.

  23. That is amazing. What a beautiful room.

  24. AWESOME ideas, Nick! I found your website through Twitter (now following you), and your thoughts are inspiring to me. I need to digest and see how this would work in my classroom, too. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Love your classroom space! After waiting for just this space I'm sure you will appreciate how lucky you are to have it. As an elementary teacher I can think of so many uses for the stage. I'm glad to see that older students will get to enjoy such a special space. I like the idea of a "Bloggers Cafe", and I am thinking of ways to adapt this idea for my young writers. I envision them working together to blog, and I love the comfy place to make blogging (and writing!) even more special.

  26. Wow! Nice space. I'm moving this year, too--to a space with no windows. While I'm not pleased with that (yeah, life happens, right), it gives me the chance to play with room orientation.

    You've got some great ideas racing around! I LOVE the blogger cafe thing. Might have to ponder how to use that in my class, too.

  27. I teach at a 1:1 school and I love it. I was one of the first advocates of bringing the program to the school. As a lit teacher, I love the idea of a relaxed, cafe-like, atmosphere for discussion, argument, etc. But...

    I am not sure I understand how live-blogging a class can lead to greater learning and understanding. I'm hoping someone can clue me in, because I'd like to find a reason to do this with my classes.

  28. I seriously covet that stage! :)


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